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Old 01-22-2021, 11:43 AM   #1
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Overwhelmed Newbie Looking at Class As

Hi All,

My first post to the forum and we're in need of advice from people with way more experience than we have. Apologies in advance if this should be in a different area--I was looking for an 'advice' area and couldn't find one, but if I'm in the wrong place, please move!

As a bit of background, we're a family of four with two young children (3 & 5) and looking at an RV purchase. I grew up camping all over the west in a westfalia, then casita/scamp and in my grandparents Class A. Unless traveling to a destination, we were always in fairly remote sites and loved it. We love being outside and want to expose our kids to the national parks and more wilderness than they have now. That said, DH grew up in a dense city and has never camped in his life. He is definitely not a 'roughing it' kind of guy! And I'm too old to sleep on the ground, so that brings us to an RV...

As I mentioned, we mainly want to use it to explore the national parks in our region (west coast) and create memories for our family. I much prefer a more private/remote camping experience, but DH still wants the comforts of home. We started our search looking at Class Cs (actually popups, but that's another story), but when DH saw the Class As he was 'home.'

So with that background a few questions:

1. Length... I've been looking at the areas we'd like to go and length seems to be a big limiting factor. So my focus has been to keep it under 30ft. But in looking at them in person, wow what a difference a few feet makes in options! Knowing that we don't want to spend a ton of time camping in RV parking lots, is under 30 ft really the magic number? This has been our biggest debate by far.

2. Dry camping vs hookups and how long can we go... I've been spending a fair amount of time on this one too, since it seems to dictate the type of place we can stay. DH's view is why have a motorhome if you can't plug it in. My view is it makes going 'off grid' way more comfortable. I don't ever see us going off grid for weeks on end, but 3-5 days is not unlikely.

I expect water will be our big issue, since we both like a [hot] shower daily, so I'm looking at models with larger tanks and possibly retrofitting with on demand water heater. Are we expecting too much to be able to do this for several days with no hookups?

Realistically, for a family of 4 using led lights and probably a tablet/tv in the evenings, how long will batteries last?

3. Which brings me to a tow vehicle. We'd like to not bring a tow vehicle (another reason for going smaller?). Is it totally unrealistic to break down camp and head out for the day to visit attractions in a Class A? How long does it typically take to setup/level? Is finding parking a nightmare or are most national parks set up for this?

And if we're breaking camp regularly, do the limitations on dry camping above even really apply, since we would be recharging and could top up tanks regularly?

I would be very grateful for all and any wisdom you are willing share. I know I've asked a ton of questions that are probably super basic, but they seem so interrelated that I'm not sure how to parse them. And the RV salesmen showing DH bigger and bigger models aren't helping! We'd at least like to have something we want to keep for a while and not take a total $$$ bath on it. After looking, DH is of the opinion that we should buy the best/biggest we can, but I also don't want to end up with something that doesn't let us go the places we want to go!
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Old 01-22-2021, 11:55 AM   #2
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IMO your family is the exact familiy that should buy something cheaper right now. You don't even know if you'll like this whole experience yet. You're kids will soon be into sports if you choose to do that type of thing. I'm just saying don't get into a major commitment until you know what you want to do over that next 10 years or so.
You will most likely "take a bath" on this purchase. The only way to make sure you lose more money is to spend more money. Don't forget to start with storage, insurance and maintenance.
We had an older Class C that was 29' and we were fine without a TOAD. We used our Class C almost like a tour bus. We even decorated it and used it to tour Christmas lights.
You'd be surpised how many people rent out their MH's. It's expensive but not as expensive as owning one yourself. You might try renting to start learning more.
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Old 01-22-2021, 12:08 PM   #3
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A dilemma new to RV / Class A people face a lot. Desire for small with lots of space for 4 people and spend a lot of time off grid.

Length: "Small" class A's are somewhat of an anomaly in that yes, there are some, but what you trade off on is space, comfort, sleeping acomadations, tire size, smaller GVWR / chassis. Here is a list of under 30' class A's to take a look at from pretty basic to pretty nice: https://rvblogger.com/blog/8-small-c...under-30-feet/. Personally, I like a bit larger Class A as it allows for a better ride and handling, more storage capacity, bigger bed / shower / toilet, larger holding and fresh water tanks. We settled on 35' as that seems to be the norm for the size allowable in most national parks. There are exceptions, but generally, anything over that length is often tough to find a spot.

Dry Camping: your limiting factors on dry camping will be water and power. Generally, a class A will have a generator that can be run to recharged the house batteries. How often, depends your usage of power. Our unit has a residential rig, so we have to run the generator maybe twice a day, depending on power usage to keep the batteries charged. Ideally, you have a class A that has 4, 6V house batteries. For the two of us, and a 70 gallon FW tank, we have gone 5 - 6 days and that includes taking a (quick) shower daily. With children, power and water requirements generally ramp up pretty quick until they figure out there is not an unlimited supply of either. As to tankless hot water heaters, I am not really a fan as I have run into a lot of people having issues with them. Maybe, in the future they will be better, but for now, I'll stay with the regular heater, especially as it if easier to troubleshoot and repair if off the beaten path. And, finally, on this note - "boondocking" can be a relative term in a class A. I have seen class A's in places I would not even think about going into with my Jeep Wrangler. Yep - there are places you can get in and out of, but how much damage will you incur? If you are talking national forest campgrounds - piece of cake, in most cases.

Tow vehicle: Generally speaking, small Class A's are limited to about a 5000# tow rating. What you have to do, is figure out the gross weight rating available, then add everything up that you plan on taking (including people and pets) along with water, proposed tow vehicle, and see where you come out at. We tow a 2 door Jeep JK Sahara, as it is just the two of us and a small dog. This would work for your family, although a 4 door is a nice nicer, but again, you have to figure out the weight.

Hope this helps and gives you some things to ponder. I'm sure others will chime in also. The reality though, is find a floorpan that you really like and serves the family well. I have found this to be very important, as you'll be spending time in the rig and need to be comfortable without being on top of each other.
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Old 01-22-2021, 12:11 PM   #4
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I think maybe you're not quite ready to buy yet....

1. 34-ish feet will still let you get in lots of places including national parks and whatnot, and it's enough length to be quite comfortable. We spent our first six years in a 25 footer. It was great for shorter trips while we were still working, but not for the much longer ones we take now that we've retired.

2. Longer motorhomes will have larger tanks meaning longer stays when boondocking. We could get 2.5 days in our 25 footer without any changes to our normal routine. We'll get double that in the 34 footer.

Long showers are contra-indicated for any serious boondocking. You'll want to learn how to do "Navy" showers to extend both your fresh and gray water tanks.

You'll find that a motorhome water heater is set much higher than the one in your house (140 degrees) so taking a long hot shower isn't an issue. They recover faster as well so unless you absolutely cannot wait between one shower and the next it isn't usually a problem. If you have a dual electric/gas unit you can run both at the same time to reduce the recovery time even more.

If you find you absolutely have to have more hot water a demand unit is probably your best bet. Water heaters are usually tucked in pretty tightly and you'll likely need to do quite a bit of surgery to install a 10 gallon unit.

3. If you want to do regular day-trips you'll want a toad. Yes, you can unhook, wander around, and then re-hookup at the end of the day, but it's a chore. After a day of 4-wheeling in the desert it's really nice to just come back and jump in that nice hot shower.

A motorhome is not a car and they really aren't much fun to drive. Consequently, they aren't great sightseeing vehicles. Unlike a car, they need your nearly undivided attention. They are no fun on rough roads, are hard to find places to park, and at 7 - 9 MPG you'll buy a lot of gas using one take side trips.

We tow a Jeep Wrangler for just that reason. It's expensive to get set up, but once done hooking/unhooking is a breeze, and it's great being able to run into town to get something for dinner or spend the day on backroads and jeep trails seeing parts of the country that most never get to.

Good luck with your purchase!


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Old 01-22-2021, 12:11 PM   #5
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National parks usually have very limited parking available, especially at the popular 'need to see' attractions. Some do have space for class A parking, but very limited. You could spend 1/2 a day looking for some place to park a behemoth class A to see a geyser. Almost no parking for a class A to see Glacier's best sights. A towed vehicle (aka TOAD) is advisable in these areas.

National parks also usually have limited number of camping slots for big RVs. Remember, their campgrounds were built decades ago when the majority of visitors camped in tents or small camp trailers. There are a few big spots, but not many.

Unless you are always plugged into a private full hookup RV CG you should plan on learning and practicing wise water, waste and power management. Your usage will vary from mine. Some NP campgrounds have water and sewage dumps at or near camp, but not most. A few even have full hookups, but not many.
You would be very wise to do due diligence and research your intended camps for the luxuries.

And last, you shoulda married an outdoorsman. Sorry! Just kidding!
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Old 01-22-2021, 12:13 PM   #6
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Well your asking all the right questions , but I can only comment on some ; no kids and very seldom dry camp , one night on the road is about it .
DW and I had a back woods cabin for 25 years , so we've kind of " been there ,done that " on the off the grid stuff.

Ok; family of four , sleeping and water capacity under 30' . This will be an issue and you need to be aware that shorter in a Class A means lighter chassis and reduced ( In 99% of cases ) CCC ( Cargo Carrying Capacity sometimes listed as OCCC ).
To reduce weight , manufacturers , install fewer batteries ; so less power available for long term off grid and less CCC , leaves little room to add batteries or solar to extend the time off grid.

Picture below is an RV weight sticker , there is no standard placement for this document , but any unit you consider , it's important to find and read it carefully , for the CCC amount and how the manufacturer calculated it .

JMHO: Family of four , anything under 2,000 lbs. CCC , just won't do ;an overloaded RV is a danger on the road , and poor handling due to overload makes for a white knuckle drive and poor RVing experience .
No toad from a remote site , you could end up with multiple hours of pack up/ set up , for a quart of milk.
I'm sure other members will chime in soon , with opinions on the rest of your questions .
Safe travels .

EDIT: I see other members have posted while I was typing , sorry about duplication . Boy I type slow.
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Old 01-22-2021, 12:18 PM   #7
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Hi ! Welcome to IRV2! We're sure glad you joined us!

I would go for about 35' for a family of four.

I haven't done any boondocking so can't offer much advice on that. I too would look for the largest tanks you can find, which won't be on a 30'!

I just found this and thought it might be helpful! https://rvlife.com/daily-water-usage...m_medium=email

I wouldn't consider traveling without a toad! Just too much trouble to use the Class A!

Good luck, happy trails, and God bless!
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Old 01-22-2021, 01:14 PM   #8
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Thank you all for being so generous with your time and the input so far!!

Groswald, you're definitely right that we're not ready to buy As of last week, I was going to buy a cheap used pop up and go with the kids on our own, so things have escalated a smidge! Your input on the water heater is super helpful--for some reason I wasn't taking temperature into account.

I really appreciate the thoughts on a toad. I know at some point we'll want to think about that, but was hoping we could get by for a while. Hops, hearing your comments about spending half the day looking for a parking spot is definitely giving me pause. I'll likely be doing most of the driving, so I'm especially concerned about that. And yes, I married a city boy. We complement each other well though!

Skip, thanks for bringing up CCC. I paid a lot of attention to that when I was looking at popups, but didn't realize it would still be an issue with a full sized RV.

HighDesert, we're looking at a winnebago that has a 70gal tank, so that's very helpful to have a direct comparison. I'm ok with quick showers, but I want one daily. The kids would go weeks if we didn't insist! Your thoughts on length are helpful. If we went up to 31' there are models with bunk beds, which seem like they would be nice for traveling with kids, especially if we need to 'set up' regularly.

oknewbie, we're definitely a good candidate for renting. I'm just a little worried if our first experience is a disaster I'll never get DH back on board! If we buy, at least I know he'll be all in for a while...

A lot to think about!!
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Old 01-22-2021, 02:28 PM   #9
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We RV'd without a toad for over a decade, 1 month trips and only at a few destinations over 3 nights. Family of six. 5 years with a 32' Class C, 5 years with a 30' Class C. You have to plan a little more, and sometimes only plugged in to electric if we knew we were going touring again the next day. Totally doable.

About 7 years ago, we started pulling a Jeep on about 1/3 of our trips, with our current 27' Class C. The convenience is balanced somewhat by the extra length, slightly lower gas mileage, cost of towing equipment, inability to back up, etc.

I like having the flexibility of choosing to toad or not to toad based on the trip we intend to make. Going full time in two years and towing is a no-brainer

What if you try it without a toad, see how it fits your RV lifestyle, and decide later if a toad is a big deal for you? Might save a few $.
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Old 01-22-2021, 03:10 PM   #10
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First let me tell you a little about our situation, we are empty nesters so, I too grew up around RV's to a limited degree, my parents had a couple of travel trailers, and I owned a couple of camper vans when I was married to my first wife, but had been without one since about the time I met my current wife in 2003. My wife never had much experience camping or RV'ing growing up, though she did grow up in a rural area. Anyway I had been shopping off and on for a new RV starting in about 2007 with my wife being unsure about the whole thing, unsure if we would use it enough to justify it etc. Then in 2016 she eventually agreed to give it a try, though she set the budget fairly low at under $20,000, which meant buying an older coach, in our case it ended up being a then 14 year old 2002 Safari Trek 28 ft class A for only a little bit over her budget cap (don't tell her). All trips to date, which were averaging about 75 nights per year until covid hit have been with either 1 or 2 people, sometimes with me driving solo and my wife flying out to the destination, sometimes weekend trips with just me and my college age son.

Now down to answering your question, in my opinion there is no wrong length of class A coach, it all depends on how you are going to use it, however there are poorly designed and poorly built coaches in all sizes. Some just have poor layouts, others not enough CCC, or not enough tank size, etc. All too often they sacrifice livability to maximize the number of sleeping positions. Having camped out at multiple national parks, state parks and other similar places, I can tell you that yes size does matter. Even at under 30 ft (29'5" in our case), it can be hard to fit in some places, in 2017 we booked 3 back in 30 ft RV sites at different campgrounds around Yellowstone, and all 3 were just barely big enough for us, one of which was very difficult to pull into without hitting a tree or marker post (took over 5 minutes of inching back and forth to get into the space, and even once in it the entry door would barely open due to a tree. Sure there are longer sites at many of the campgrounds, there just are not many of them, and they book up well in advance, take Mather campground at the Grand Canyon for example, the campground has a 31 ft max overall length limit, which may not sound too bad, until you learn that less than 10 of the 300ish sites in the campground are listed for RV's over 28 ft in length (others will point out that there is a full hookup campground 1/3 mile away with long pull through sites).

Now for some more opinions, you are never going to take a long hot shower in any RV, mine has an 80 gallon fresh water tank, as well as a 40 gallon black, and 40 gallon gray tank which is big for a sub 30 ft coach, though at about 2 to 2.5 gallons per minute average flow rate for an RV shower head I could completely fill my gray tank in 20 minutes, though with a 6 gallon water heater, I would likely run out of hot water after only 6-8 minutes depending on ambient temperature. I have a shower timer, and find that I can get in, get washed off shampoo my hair and get out in about 3-4 minutes, cutting off the water with the quick cutoff button while lathering my hair, and not feel too rushed with a bit of practice (try it at home with a countdown timer).

As to parking part of what I like about having a smaller coach is the ability to travel without a TOAD car, this is not to say that we will not get one set up in the future, just that for a lot of types of trips it is possible to make do without. Though it does take planning, and may mean parking a few blocks away from the intended destination, and skipping a few entirely. I can say that at just under 30 ft we are pushing the upper end of the size limit where it is practical to travel without a TOAD, and I often find when making stops mid day on travel days, etc that I often wish our coach were a couple of feet shorter. Of course at the same time I am glad it is no shorter when it comes to CCC and storage / living space. (our OCCC using the current method is just under 3,000 pounds, which gives right about 2,000 with full tanks).

Attached are a few photos of our coach barely fitting in places, and maybe a couple of it with plenty of room to spare while boondocking or in large parking lots. As to added time, it take us about 5 minutes to set up and break camp most of the time, excluding packing up BBQ grill, canopy tent, camp chairs, etc. which we don't always put out), plus maybe 5 minutes to stow everything inside for travel.
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2002 Safari Trek 2830 on P32 Chassis with 8.1L
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Old 01-22-2021, 04:02 PM   #11
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I would suggest something over 30' for sure. 34ish I think would be ideal and you can also find a nice bunkhouse model in that range. Toy Haulers are a little better for Dry Camping since they carry more water and have bigger holding tanks occasionally but in a Class A, go with at least 4 6V batteries, 8 is even better and solar with a good charge controller will help not run the generator as much. Also remember you will want an inverter if you want to be able to run 110V loads without the generator running. Most newer motorhomes will have them but if you are buying used it's something to think about.

Last thing, unhooking camp and driving the RV into town frequently sounds miserable to me and not like a vacation. Find a small car or jeep that you can tow for sure, or just plan on enjoying the campground and things within walking or biking distance.
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Old 01-22-2021, 04:39 PM   #12
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A word on traveling without a TOAD in a sub 30 ft coach, it is a limitation, but we have done it for over 20,000 miles since buying our current coach in 2016, rarely staying in one place for more than 3-4 days. It does take some additional planning, scouting out stops using google maps satellite and street view, etc. and yes there have been times when I have stayed in the campground vs unhooking and going some place. It also means planning out destinations where this will be less of an issue, this might mean choosing an RV park with places of interest being within walking distance, renting a car at the destination or picking campgrounds / rv parks with access to public transit, using Uber, etc. All of which we have done paying out a combined less than it would cost to set up a TOAD car.

Examples are staying at Mather Campground at the Grand Canyon where there is a shuttle bus pickup by the campground entrance, renting a car for a week to get around the Texas hill country, opting to choose an in town RV park in Branson, MO to be withing walking distance of many attractions, using Uber to get around Sante Fe, NM or picking an RV park on the public tourist shuttle route in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The point is it can be done, not that it is perfect for all destinations, which is why we will set up a TOAD car at some point, but until then there are still plenty of places for us to go where we don't need a TOAD.

Take our most recent big trip as an example, a 30 day long, 3,000 mile loop from Louisiana to the Grand Canyon in October of 2019 with stops in Amarillo, TX, Santa Fe, NM, Aztec national Monument, Four Corners Monument, Goosenecks state park,UT, Navajo National Monument, AZ , Wahweap campground outside Page, AZ, of course the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Meteor Crater, driving by the corner in Winslow, spending the night at the free dry camping campground outside the south entrance of Petrified Forest National Park, a resupply freezing (12F) overnight stop (groceries and propane) in Springerville, AZ, 4-5 nights in the Gila National forest at 2 campgrounds in NM, then back across Texas on a more southerly route to avoid the early season arctic blast, with a 3 night stop at the Texas Renfest campground meeting up with my college age son while there. Along with various overnight stops along the way.

During which time we used Uber on 2 days in Santa Fe, to commute from the rv park to downtown, we could have taken the city bus as there was a bus stop directly in front of the rv park, but opted to splurge on an Uber (8-9 miles to downtown), drove the coach into town each day while in Page to go to Antelope Canyon tour (photo of the smokestacks with our coach is their parking lot), as well as to do a half day float trip down Glen Canyon parking in the large parking lot behind the float trip pick up building. Otherwise it was either use the coach for touring (ie petrified national park which would have been ok if the pavement was not teeth jarring rough), or were generally day stops mid day on travel days (Meteor Crater) or had things within walking / electric bicycle distance, Gila National forest. Oh I almost forget the free limo pickup in Amarillo for the Big Texan Steakhouse.
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Old 01-22-2021, 04:44 PM   #13
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rv2come --

Welcome to the forum! There are many great members willing to provide help anytime.

With regards to your questions, as a first time RV buyer I'd suggest you consider gently used Class A's and Class C's in the size you desire for a younger family. Buy buying pre-owned RVs someone else has endured the large initial value depreciation and your cost to get started is less in case your family finds they don't like RV adventures.

A consignment dealership such as PPL Motorhomes here in Houston is a great place to "shop" on-line to see what size, model, floor plan, etc. intrques you then find a dealership near you who may have a similar RV. By looking at different floor plans you can see what you gain with longer RVs and what is lost with a smaller RV.

Here is the link to gasoline engine Class A's at PPL Motorhomes --> https://www.pplmotorhomes.com/used-r...tBy=price+desc The Thor A.C.E motorhome seems to be quite popular for young families.

"Diesel Pusher" Class A's are usally 36 feet+ in size which provides additional room and engine power. Because they are bigger machines, the price for a diesel pusher is usually higher than a gasoline engine Class A. Here is the PPL Motorhomes link for diesel pusher Class A's --> https://www.pplmotorhomes.com/used-r...tBy=price+desc

Have fun shopping and let the forum know what you decide to purchase. And feel free ask the forum for help on any topic any time.

Good luck!
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Old 01-22-2021, 05:13 PM   #14
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I agree PPL is a great place to shop, particularly if you have some time you can spend in Texas, and want to see a wide variety of brands and models, how it is for buying may be another matter. I had some time to kill on the south side of Houston a couple of years ago, so spend part of an afternoon walking their lot, and the one thing that noticed over and over again was how poor of condition most of the coaches they described as "good condition" were. (torn upholstery fabric, broken entry steps and grab handles, fiberglass checkering, etc.)
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